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In Jimmy’s absence Lewis Parker, vlogger and campaigner extraordinaire, joins Jazza in this week’s podcast to discuss International Men’s Day, voting rights for 16-year-olds and bombing Syria.
First up, we talk International Men’s Day and whether or not the controversy of this event is justified. Honestly, Jazza goes a bit Breitbart.
The Lords have yet again sent back a government-backed bill, suggesting that 16 and 17-year-olds should be given the vote in the EU referendum. Is votes for the young worth it when it may mean leaving the EU and when so few young people turn out to vote?
Finally, should the UK be bombing Syria along with the US, France and Russia? Should we be giving Russian president Vladimir Putin free reign? Is Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn right to not give his MPs a free vote on this issue?
Follow us @RightDishonour and tweet Jazza and Lewis @JazzaJohn and @LewisParkerUK respectively, though not necessarily respectfully.
Image Credit – Bashar al-Assad propaganda, September 2007 by Michael Goodine
This needs balance – I don’t think we should give 16 and 17 year olds the vote.
It’s publically unpopular (https://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/08/22/public-against-lowering-voting-age/) – even with young people – and I’m not convinced by the arguments in favour.
The arguments given in the podcast, and generally, are that 16 year olds can work and pay taxes; they have some legal powers (e.g. sex); and they are politically aware, well informed, and want it.
Firstly, 16 isn’t the youngest age you can work and pay taxes. 13 year olds can work limited times (https://www.gov.uk/child-employment/restrictions-on-child-employment) so, on these terms, should they be eligible to vote?
The function of a Government is not only to make decisions over how tax money should be spent, but also to take moral decisions (for example, on capital punishment or the legalisation or prohibition of certain activities). Your eligibility to make a moral decision like this, which you do through voting for a Government, isn’t based on your ability to take on work and be taxed for it, but your capacity to make an informed mature decision.
So if the argument is actually centred on your capacity to make a genuinely informed decision on the future of your country. Votes for 16 year olds’ advocates can point to the rights argument – you can have sex legally, get married (with your parents’ consent) and leave home. Fair play, they are an indicator in our legal system of maturity.
But my counter argument would be that they aren’t anywhere near as linked to your capacity to make a moral/political decision as those given to you at 18, particularly the rights to go to prison, serve on a Jury, and be elected as an MP or councillor. Over 18s are allowed on a Jury because they are seen to be old enough to reason between right and wrong in legal judgements which directly affect others. You can go to prison, because you’re of an age where the country can deem you fully culpable of the law you broke as you are old enough to know the law, right, wrong, etc. And being an elected official, surely the biggest indicator of political judgement?
As I said previously, voting isn’t just a financial transaction between one person and the state, but includes moral decisions over laws which govern everyone. Sitting on a jury or being an MP or councillor are the closet legal indicator we have to this, far more related than having sex.
But what if these indicators are all an archaic structure which has previously failed to see the maturity of 16 year olds? Why be so small c conservative and make all your judgements on what people used to think?
Fair point. People who want votes for 16 year olds can say nay-sayers just don’t recognise the maturity of 16 year olds. Look at the Scottish referendum, loads of them got involved in the debate and voted. Harsh, but I don’t think it was full proof indicator that 16 year olds we mature, reasoned, long-term-thinking voters: the only choices for them, yes or no, were both considered reasonable.
Those who don’t want votes for 16 year olds will point to immature kids in the same way that people who do want a lower voting age will point to mature ones. The difference for me is that the argument that you mature in later teenage years actually has some rational basis in science (e.g. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-teen-brain-still-under-construction/index.shtml?utm_source=LifeSiteNews.com+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=2c0fa9560b-LifeSiteNews_com_Intl_Full_Text_12_18_2012).
Through your teenage years, the short term pleasure seeking part of your brain (nucleus accumbens) develops long before the prefontal cortex, which deals with long-term rational decision making. If anything, this development isn’t really finished until your 19/20, and it’s why we’re biologically geared to make the short-termist mistakes in our teenage years, leading to higher accident rates in this age group etc.
So to summarise, the rights you gain at 18 are the most linked to your ability to make (and be responsible) for long-term, reasoned, legal and political decisions: sitting on a Jury, being an MP or councillor, being fully responsibility for any illegal actions you take. This age hasn’t just been landed on, but is drawn society’s long recognition of the (now biologically recognised) fact that people begin make more long-term, mature decisions during this period of their life. Society still recognises this today, which is why the polls show the majority of people are against it.
People may say, but Brazil has votes at 16. I say, who cares, I live in Britain. If Brazil jumped off a cliff?
People may say, but some 16 year olds want to vote. I say, tough luck. The outcome of democracy doesn’t always suit you. One day you might find yourself screaming “why the fucking hell are you quoting Mao” and “we’re ruined” at a laptop screen because of the result of a democratic decision you thought was complete and utter madness, but that’s life. It’s not perfect.
People may say, they support votes for 16 year olds, but only with the right educational framework at school. I say, do you trust politicians to outline a completely balanced programme of ‘political education’ in the run up to an election ? Particularly when 15 year olds won’t have much life experience outside of school in which they can critically judge what’s put to them. Bit risky, and for what gain?
People may say, it’ll increase voter turnout. I say make voting compulsory.
People may say, but lots of older people don’t know much about politics and they can vote. I say, what kind of system would you advocate then? A vote-worthy IQ test. Does adding to the pile of uninformed voters with systemically more uninformed voters make a better system? And does putting forward that arguement undermine your argument that 16 year olds are well informed?
People may say, there’s no objective truth. You’ve swallowed society’s norms (Tory-lite!), backed up by your arbitrary drunken experience of adolescence at 16/17, and now you’re window-dressing that with science and line of argument which suits the continuation of a voting age of 18. I say, the counter argument could be made of your bias. But in real life you have to try and make the most reasoned argument because a decision has to be made.
I’m done now.